(John Davies - Founder and Legal Expert)
“The UK is a Great innovative and entrepreneurial nation. Starting your own business is something I've written about before and we continually see and hear from start-ups bringing their ideas and energy to the UK economy. Ben and his company's success is a spectacular achievement and just goes to show the humblest of beginnings is no barrier.
So, I wanted to write about Gymshark to celebrate an amazing UK success story. Even though our young company wasn't around at the time Gymshark started-up. I know that in those formative years, entrepreneurs need digitally savvy, speedy and cost effective legal support to help achieve their ambitions. A need we hope Everyday Legal helps fulfill in the UK."
From Pizza Hut delivery driver to Billionaire before the age of 30.
Ben Francis is set to become the richest self-made person under 30 in Britain after securing an agreement which places a billion-pound value on his Gymshark business.
He started the business in 2012 whilst still at University – and in a similar situation to Jeff Bezos at Amazon, had to work out of his parents’ garage. He made ends meet by working in the evenings delivering pizza.
Prior to moving into clothing, Gymshark began life as a supplements business. In the formative clothing years, the merchandise was hand made by Ben and his friends using sewing machines, having been taught how to sow by his grandmother! However, the supply of basic clothing such as gym vests soon developed into huge demand for a wider variety.
Still only 28 years old, his company is now certainly one of the UK’s fastest-growing businesses. Its choice of fitness inspired clothing has definitely caught on with the health-conscious amongst us. He relies heavily on social media and is based in Solihull but has since expanded overseas with offices in Hong Kong, Mauritius, and Denver.
The most recent accounts filed at Companies House show £18.6m operating profit on sales of over £176m last year. Ben owns two thirds of the company and according to Bloomberg sources has agreed to sell a 21 per cent stake to General Atlantic, a US private equity firm. You will see below how he believes in getting the right people in on his team and documenting everything he does. Like all good business success stories, he will have business plans, policies and appropriate contracts in place.
A highly valuable business to rival competitor giants
The offer values Ben’s stake in the company in excess of £650m. The business has relied on fitness-focused social media influencers to appeal to international customers across the globe. Gymshark decided to open a pop-up shop in Covent Garden during the pandemic. Overall, it now has around 400 employees, circa two million Facebook followers and in excess of 4.6 million on Instagram. The new deal is to assist growing the business – Ben has openly commented that he would like to take on businesses such as Nike and Adidas.
How did they do it?
“Since launching Everyday Legal, one common thing we hear about are businesses that have not sorted out contracts with their supply chain and/or sales channels. It is often a legally painful and costly experience later when such things are ignored."
The strapline ‘Staying Humble’ is evident on the headquarter walls of the company. The business also employs the #stayhumble Instagram hashtag using high numbers of selfies from Gymshark fans and team members. A lovey quote from the company’s CEO Steve Hewitt, “It takes zero talent to work hard and zero talent to stay humble; if you get those things right you will always do well in your journey.”
Interestingly, he also advises to “Learn to fail fast” and “Own as much of the supply chain as you can.”
It is clear then that Ben and his colleagues will never forget their humble beginnings and never take their success for granted.
Let us have a look at their priorities.
Always focusing on their customers
Gymshark has a defined target demographic of 18-25-year-olds whose lives revolve around fitness, fashion, and music. The business solely concentrates on this target audience and everything the business does is aimed at this.
The business clearly intends to look after these customers – in 2015, following a website crash Ben personally wrote to 2500 customers, apologising and honouring discounts. This is so refreshing nowadays given the usual PR statement being dished out by many faceless individuals behind large companies in similar situations!
So – Gymshark clearly concentrates on and deeply cares for its target audience. It is not afraid of an apology and appropriate remedies when due.
Gymshark has a mission statement and part of it states:
“In everything we do, be true to our own vision and respectful of others. We are here to bring ideas to life. There is no idea too big, or too small… We are not future proof. We are the future.”
The business is always looking for new ideas and new ways to implement them. You are encouraged to achieve your dreams and plan your way forward carefully, working out how many people you need to make a big and relevant impact on your target audience.
Building an influencer community
Gymshark was the earliest user of the influencer marketing model, partnering with chosen YouTubers. Now, the Gymshark brand markets products through its own community of Instagram influencers and YouTubers and sponsors a range of professional well known athletes relevant to fitness such as the boxer Katie Taylor and the long distance swimmer Ross Edgley, who believe it or not, became the first human to swim the 1780 miles around the coast of Britain.
Even the influencer model they use does not rely on the sudden impact theory but one of relationship building over a decent period of time. This is an investment and definitely not a rushed one-off promotion.
Choose your team carefully
Ben is no longer CEO. He handed this responsibility over after discovering that he had to trust others to do the job. He has surrounded himself with good people and has created a wonderful inspired atmosphere at the head office in Solihull where some 500 people work and contribute. No doubt he secured appropriate employment contracts!
Ben has employed the best people to the right roles and loves high standards and the pride that brings.
Have a good administration control
Gymshark passionately believes in documenting everything. It uses its busy social media channels to document its entire journey. Video clips and photos often appear, whenever it opens new premises or offers something else new. There are professionally filmed and edited details of Gymshark head office, its fitness club, plus the tailored events and behind-the-scenes photoshoots by different members of the team.
There are relevant updates in response to COVID-19 and how it affected the Gymshark community and fans, as well as reasons for getting involved in certain campaigns and not others.
Unsurprisingly, Ben has his own YouTube channel, with a huge number of followers, where he openly discusses his company and role, including its growth and challenges. He also uses it to announce news and explain his own journey. Ben has no worries about being prominent as a company founder and understands that people want to know what he is doing so they can associate with him.
Can you copy the successful Gymshark journey by dreaming big but staying humble, putting the right team together, documenting every part of your business, building long-term relationships with influencers, and cherishing your growing customer database?
19th August 2020
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